VA Healthcare and Benefits over the years have been important to many Veterans and their widows and orphans. VA has been taking care of me long before I even knew it. The sad thing is, it was not until after I started work at VA that I learned of our history and the impact the VA has had on many of my friends and family.

Just going back to 1969, my grandfather (Pa) on my mother’s side passed away. He was a Veteran of the US Army. He was survived by his wife, my grandmother (Nannie), three grown daughters, one son and several of us grandkids. Nannie, who had raised 4 kids and was legally blind, did not graduate from school, did not drive and never worked outside the home. She lived alone and was a big part of all our lives.

My father joined the Navy in 1958 and served for 4 years. I recall reading a letter he sent his mother that he was about to send for money home this month as he had received a promotion and now made $38 monthly. That came in handy, as he was the oldest of five boys, four still living at home on the family farm. In the 70s, I recall Dad using the GI Bill at the local community college to pursue education and to have the extra funds that it offered to improve life for his young family.

In the 80s, my parents divorced and my mother remarried a Korea Era Army Veteran who was rated as 100% Disabled in the 1990s. Then in my senior year of High School, my best friend enlisted into the US Army, referring me to his recruiter. I joined that same month in El Paso, Texas a 13F Fire Support Specialist, Airborne with guaranteed station of choice—Ft Bragg, North Carolina. After I joined, I learned I had the exact job as my stepfather had in the Army.

My great uncle passed on in 2007 and was buried in a VA National Cemetery in Arlington, Texas. I served as a pallbearer. To this day, a 21 Gun Salute will make me jump as my entire body jolts from the startle. I recall my first burial detail was 1985 for my first squad leader in Fayetteville, NC. The honor is still provided today by NCA partnering with many local Veteran Support Organizations.

va_cemetery

After retiring from the Army and accepting a position at VA, I learned that when my grandfather died when I was 4 years old, Nannie was too young for Social Security. My Aunt took her to the VA in Waco, Texas where we all lived and she received a “widow’s pension” that allowed her to receive care. I also learned that VA took care of Pa’s burial all those years ago.

Today, my father receives care at VA in Lubbock, TX. He has been to the main facility in Amarillo, had a cataract removed in Big Springs VA and recently received a mobility chair that he will not stop talking about. He is not always happy with everyone at VA, but he tells me that it is the best-kept secret in the world. You have to follow the rules, but it works great!

My wife’s father (Henry) was an Air force Veteran. He passed in 2010 and we attended his funeral at the VA Cemetery in Riverside, CA. It was a beautiful place and ceremony where we can demonstrate great respect for our fallen family and friends.

My mother’s husband passed on two years ago. As I mentioned earlier, he was a disabled Veteran. They had met and prepared with the local Veteran Service Officer in the county they live, so it was a fairly easily transition for her. The local funeral home billed VA, and did not require her to pay upfront. The VSO submitted her paperwork and in a few months she began receiving a pension for her Husband’s service. She is talking about selling the old place and moving back to Waco after learning that her late husband’s disability rating by VA makes her eligible for a VA backed mortgage, if otherwise qualified.

In 2002, a great Uncle (Uncle Doc) passed on in Odessa, Texas, he was an Army Veteran. I attended the funeral and was asked to present the VA provided flag to my Great Aunt (Annie). I remember choking back the tears, but still recall the privilege to a part of this honoring event.

VA has been very good to me and mine and I am just one of over 300,000 employees that are ready to assist Veterans along their journey. I invite you to join me at VA by applying for eligible positions at VAcareers.va.gov.

Together we make a difference.

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Published on Jan. 15, 2015

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